Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 primary election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Mike Gabbard, a Democratic candidate for the state Senate, District 20, which includes Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa, Ewa and Waipahu. He is the only candidate.
Name: Mike Gabbard
Office seeking: State Senate, District 20
Occupation: Full-time legislator
Community organizations/prior offices held: Honolulu City Council, 2003-2005; Healthy Hawaii Coalition, co-founder/president
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 68
Place of residence: Kalaeloa
Campaign website: mikegabbard.com
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Legislature is run?
Since I’ve been in office, the Legislature has greatly improved its website to provide more information to the public so that they can better track legislation and get involved. One thing that’s lacking is making it so neighbor island folks can easily testify remotely. It’s humbug for them to have to travel to Honolulu to weigh in on bills.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, this is a good way to get more people involved and strengthen our democracy.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
I think it’s a healthy thing for our political process to have other viable political parties. But that’s totally dependent on folks grassroots organizing and doing the work necessary to become viable.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
As a member of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, I’ll continue to support legislation put forward by our Campaign Spending Commission and Ethics Commission to bring transparency and openness to the political process.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes, we shouldn’t be charging Hawaii residents hundreds of dollars so that they can access records that they’re paying for in the first place.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
With the advent of social media, voters have much better access to their elected officials than they did in the past. Since I became a state senator in 2006, I’ve been hosting monthly “Listen Story” meetings in my district to give the residents of District 20 a chance to share their concerns with me. This is a good way to improve communications. I also send out a monthly newsletter and encourage constituents to contact me if they ever have questions or need help.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Traffic continues to be an important issue in my district. I’ll continue pushing the Department of Transportation to implement out of the box solutions, such as the planned expansion of the H-1 Zipper Lane to two lanes and the use of the shoulder lane between Kualakai Parkway and Kunia to ease morning rush hour traffic. I’ll also be urging HART to complete the rail project to Ala Moana.
8. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development, yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
As the Senate’s Water, Land and Agriculture Committee chair, I’ll be focusing on state policies that help us address invasive species, acquire lands for preservation and agriculture and grow more of our food. At the same time, I’ll support well-planned development in areas like West Oahu in order to create jobs and give people a decent, affordable place to live in our island paradise.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
We should move forward with expanding the police body-cam program statewide.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
We are a society that values our kupuna and seeks their wisdom and guidance in our everyday decisions. I’ll continue to support programs and policies that allow our kupuna to stay at home as long as possible. I’ll also support programs to continue to allow our kupuna to share their knowledge in our schools.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Here are key components of improving public education in our state:
Repair and maintain existing school facilities, invest in school cooling technologies and renewable energy/energy efficiency technologies to reduce electrical costs, and build state-of-the art new schools in growing areas.
Continue paying teachers better salaries to improve retention and the profession.
Reject the one-size fits all, top-down approach to curriculum development and give teachers the flexibility to use their creative talents.
Continue expanding the academy model in order to give students the ability to choose whether they want to pursue an academic or vocational path.